MBA Trip to Charlotte 2019After having visited the Charlotte area three years ago, as a part of my own MBA-studies, I gratefully took the chance to join the MBA XVI group on their stay to beautiful North Carolina as the accompanying lecturer and representative of the THM Business School and its MBA-Program. Charlotte and its surrounding area represent a prosperous and rising region in the Southeast of the United States, midway between Washington DC and Atlanta. The “Queen-City” is home to the corporate headquarters of Bank of America and the east coast operations of Wells Fargo, which along with other financial institutions has made it the second-largest banking center in the United States. Furthermore, many industries have production sites and subsidiaries in the area; a steadily growing number of corporations from Germany is active in and around Charlotte. Moreover, it is a great place for sport-enthusiasts with its prominent teams in American Football (Carolina Panthers), Basketball (Charlotte Hornets) and Baseball (Charlotte Knights). In addition, it is a great place to visit music concerts.

Within the few days a stayed there, Guns n’ Roses (sad I missed them) and Phil Collins (not so sad) had performances in the local spectrum arena. Getting to Charlotte from Germany is relatively easy; several airlines provide a direct connection from Frankfurt to this international hub. For a number years, Prof. Christopher “Doc” Howard holds the International Business Seminar at Pfeiffer University and it was an exciting experience to meet him as a colleague this time and not as a student. Dana Hanson, another dear person I was enthusiastic to meet again, organized the program and planned our agenda. Moreover, she empathically served as a fixer for all upcoming problems during our stay.

Academically, the twelve students received a number of case studies in advance, which had to be read prior to the visit. In class, Doc and the students discussed possible strategies and operations to resolve the problems entailed in the cases. As a final exam, each group got their own case on Friday, which they had to solve within a few hours. The official visiting program included a Charlotte City Tour, on which we could see many wealthy parts of town, former cotton-factories turning into housing and breweries (!) and the inner city. During the week, we also had the chance to listen to two stimulating guest speakers. Mr. Sven Gerzer, Vice President of Economic Development at the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce, gave us information and fun facts about the general economic situation in Charlotte and the possibilities for foreign direct investments in the area. Ms. Kristin Whalen, Attorney at Law at Bridgehouse Law, contributed an interesting speech on “Product Liability in the United States vs Germany”. The visits at four major corporations were on the schedule, too. The earlier mentioned Wells Fargo impressed us with its huge trading floors, gigantic halls in which traders buy and sell bonds and securities while they gather information from sometimes six monitors at a time.

The visit to Collins Aerospace supplied details on international business strategies as well as on career options for minorities. The local site of Siemens Energy, Inc. serves as a good example for heavy industry. In the giant factory in Charlotte, turbines for all kinds of power plants and generators are assembled and overhauled, many of them the size of freight cars. Finally yet importantly, the visit to Groninger USA L.L.C., a German manufacturer of filling machines for the Pharmaceutical, Cosmetics and Consumer Healthcare industry, must be mentioned. Here we had the chance to talk to some of their apprentices, who are trained ensuing the model of the German dual system. But off course, it wasn’t all work. Our Hotel, the Fairfield Inn & Suites Uptown is located in walking distance to the inner city of Charlotte, where, different from many other American cities, restaurants, bars and other places for enjoyments are located. The local kitchen is specialized on southern barbecue, all with great flavor and great calories at the same time. The NoDa neighborhood is another great place to spend time and money on food, drinks and local art. Our first official dinner location was the Fahrenheit, located on top of the Hyatt Hotel, which provided a great view on the nightly skyline and one of the biggest and tastiest T-bone steaks I ever had the pleasure to eat. Prior to the presentation of the official participation certificates on Friday, we had our Farewell Dinner at the Charlotte City Club. Overall, it was a trip to remember, offering new facts, updated insights and a cultural experience that strikes Europeans whenever they visit the United States. I guess I can speak for the students as well, by thanking Dana, Kelli, Doc and all the others who made the visit possible, by investing work, time and motivation into the endeavor. Charlotte, I will be seeing you again.

//Michael Döring - October 2019